Stanley Cup 2013, I: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I II III IV V

That’s right, playoffs!  It seems like just yesterday the 2013 NHL season began… but it somehow also simultaneously feels like it’s been a year-long journey to the greatest tournament in sports.  So much happened in this 48-game season; too much to comment on here.  Besides, the professional writers have already done a far better job than I could ever wish to so go read them instead.

Hey, I was only joking about the leaving part. 😦

So how do I celebrate this fantastic part of the year?  By making awesome graphics in Photoshop (see examples below)!  Also, by over-analyzing the season, reading and not really understanding advanced stats, then picking winners and putting them in my awesome homemade bracket (the story of which is a post for another time… maybe tomorrow!). [2013-05-01 edit: See here!]

I don’t remember seeing this last year, but NHL.com is doing a Bracket Challenge, akin to March Madness.  I decided to post my picks just for fun.  If I win, that would be nice, but I couldn’t care less about that.  Without further ado, here are my educated predictions for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

predictions
This is from NHL.com, not my homemade bracket

Let me break this down in simple tidbits, starting in the West.

Chicago Blackhawks  Minnesota Wild

1. Chicago Blackhawks vs 8. Minnesota Wild:  Remember Chicago’s 24 game point streak? Yeah.  They handily won the President’s Trophy, beating out a Pittsburgh team that went on a 15 game win streak and then a 7 game win streak after that.  Minnesota backed into the playoffs with a 4-5-1 record, as well as being the only team in the dance with a negative goal differential.  I gave Minny a game to steal, but I wouldn’t doubt if this series was over in 3.  What a way to start a new divisional rivalry.

Who I like:
CHI:  Toews, (Pirri)
MIN:  Pominville!, Harding, Koivu

Who I don’t:
CHI:  Carcillo, Shaw
MIN:  Nobody?

Anaheim Ducks  Detroit Red Wings

2. Anaheim Ducks vs 7. Detroit Red Wings:  I was rooting so hard for the Wings to miss for the first time in 21 years, but alas this wasn’t the year for #Lumbus.  The Red Wings brought themselves out of the middle of the cellar in the last few weeks, going on a neat little run to jump into 7th.  Anaheim has been the opposite, regressing from an abnormally good start (which many predicted due to their incredibly high PDO).  I don’t want them to, but I see Detroit coming out on top in a long series.  #Teemu4Ever

Who I like:
ANA:  Selanne, Lydman, Palmieri
DET:  Datsyuk

Who I don’t:
ANA:  ?
DET:  Everyone else.  Especially Tootoo.

Vancouver Canucks  San Jose Sharks

3. Vancouver Canucks vs 6. San Jose Sharks:  My new hometown team versus the only of my three favorites in the playoffs.  This one has some bad blood going back to the 2011 Conference Finals and it will be a scrappy, rough series.  Vancouver has all the pieces in place for a deep run with their injured players returning and off-ice drama fading.  San Jose likewise has been strong since the trade deadline and I could see them dominating, given the season series.  I like Vancouver, but this one is a toss-up.  Ditto previous divisional rivalry comments; this one will be fun to watch next year.

Who I like:
VAN:  Everyone…
SJS:  Nobody, really.

Who I don’t:
VAN:  …except Derek Roy.
SJS:  Nobody, really…

St. Louis Blues  Los Angeles Kings

4. St. Louis Blues vs 5. Los Angeles Kings:  This is a stupid pick.  St. Louis was swept by Los Angeles in the last playoffs, as well as this year’s season series.  The current Kings are not very different from the Kings of old, while the Blues are just now regaining last year’s winning form.  It’s gonna be a boring (read: amazing) series, and it’s one I wanted last year in the first round.  Contrary to everything, I’m thinking an upset is in order here.  It’s what my gut says.  Sorry California, I’ve got nobody going to round two.

Who I like:
STL:  Backes, Pietrangelo, Leopold, Perron, Backes, Oshie, Backes
LAK:  Regehr, Kopitar, Quick

Who I don’t:
STL:  Nichol.
LAK:  Richards, Carter, Brown, Stoll, Penner?

Here’s the East, which I could not care less about with Buffalo out this year.  Maybe next year, Sabres.  Unless there’s a really good story line through the first few rounds, I’m rooting for the champion to come from out west.

Pittsburgh Penguins  New York Islanders

1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 8. New York Islanders:  The Islanders are a scrappy team built on the waver-wire that nobody saw even coming close to the playoffs.  They have an even goal differential, but have been on a nice roll lately.  And if anyone is going to take down the Penguins, it’s John Tavares.  That said, the Islanders have a nearly total lack of playoff experience and the juggernaut Penguins will run over them.  Once again I took the safe route of giving the Isles a win, but this may very well be a sweep.

Who I like:
PIT:  Crosby, Iginla, Dupuis
NYI:  Tavares

Who I don’t:
PIT:  Cooke?
NYI:  meh

Montreal Canadiens  Ottawa Senators

2. Montréal Canadiens vs 7. Ottawa Senators:  Don’t care.  Montréal barely won the division, and they should be playing Toronto.  I hated Ottawa in 2006 and 2007, but now they’re just meh.  I’ve got Montréal coming out of this one, but with Karlsson back for the Sens, they might go on a run themselves.

Who I like:
MON:  Price, Subban, Prust
OTT:  Spezza, Conacher

Who I don’t:
MON:  Kaberle
OTT:  Neil, Neil, Neil, Neil… and Neil.

Washington Capitals  New York Rangers

3. Washington Capitals vs 6. New York Rangers:  The Capitals have been unstoppable lately.  I wanted the Winnipeg Jets to win the division so bad, but the Caps just wouldn’t stop winning.  New York had been a disappointment this season, but still found their way into 6th.  It’s hard to say who wins this one, but I think the Rangers figure it out and oust Washington.  After all, it wouldn’t be spring if the Caps weren’t out early in the playoffs.  These two are also new divison rivals next year, but I don’t really care that much.

Who I like:
WSH:  Laich, Holtby
NYR:  Girardi, Callahan, Boyle, Biron, Lundqvist

Who I don’t:
WSH: Ovechkin, Green
NYR:  Clowe, Asham

Boston Bruins  Toronto Maple Leafs

4. Boston Bruins vs 5. Toronto Maple Leafs:  The other Northeast Division matchup. As a Sabres fan, it gives me great pleasure to see only 2 of the 4 NE playoff teams able to move on.  I hate the Bruins.  I think the Maple Leafs are stupid.  The Bruins will win because the Leafs haven’t been here in 9 years.

Who I like:
BOS: 
TOR: 

Who I don’t:
BOS:  See above.
TOR:  Likewise.

But wait, there’s more!

Looking at later in my bracket, I’ve set myself up for another Blackhawks/Canucks series, because they are the best.  I mean, seriously, the best rivalry of recent times.  Unfortunately for me, I see Chicago moving on to the Cup (and winning), but I really want Vancouver to advance again and make up for their loss in 2011.

The East bores me.  I have Pittsburgh emerging because I don’t want anyone else to have even a remote chance of winning the Cup.  With the lack of inter-conference play this season, I would absolutely love to see Chicago and Pittsburgh playing for the Cup.  That series has so much potential, I don’t think I could even handle it.  They certainly deserve it given their seasons.

The puck drops tonight.  I have yet to read any series previews and have heard only a few prognostications.  Anything can happen in the playoffs, and I hope that anything does.

Except the Leafs winning the Cup.

Or the Bruins.

Or the Senators.

Or the Red Wings.

Or the Kings, again.

(Let’s go Canucks)

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